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Updated: 3 hours 27 min ago

Bio Roundup: RNAi’s Big Day, CAR-T For Kids, Drugs From Fungi & More

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 07:30

It’s been a year of biomedical milestones in the U.S., including the first approval of a CAR-T cellular immunotherapy, the first smartphone app to treat substance abuse, and the first approval of a cancer drug based on genetic signature instead of the tumor’s organ of origin.

Add to the list the first successful Phase 3 trial for an RNA interference drug, likely leading to a first ever FDA review.

We might not need to go far into the future to look back at 2017 and call it a year when medicine began to significantly change. Perhaps we can... Read more »

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Nathan Myhrvold: The Full Xconomy Voices Interview

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 04:00

Episode 3 of our new podcast, Xconomy Voices, features a conversation about nuclear power with Nathan Myhrvold, the founder and CEO of Intellectual Ventures.

The former Microsoft chief technology officer is now vice chairman of TerraPower, a Bellevue, WA-based spinout of Intellectual Ventures that aims to revive commercial nuclear energy. The company is researching next-generation reactor designs, including the traveling wave reactor and the molten chloride reactor, that would be cheaper to build and operate than previous generations of reactors—as well as safer.

Myhrvold believes nuclear power has to be part of the answer to the challenge of... Read more »

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Xconomy Voices, Episode 3: Nathan Myhrvold and TerraPower

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 11:24

We’re pleased to bring you the third episode of Xconomy Voices, our new podcast featuring conversations with entrepreneurs, innovators, and investors from Xconomy’s home cities and regions.

This week our guest is Nathan Myhrvold, the former Microsoft chief technology officer who, since 2000, has headed Intellectual Ventures, a Bellevue, WA-based firm that buys, develops, and licenses technology patents and other intellectual property.

Myhrvold spoke about Intellectual Ventures’ mission and business model at Xconomy’s Napa Summit in June, and we caught up with him there. He has so many interests and projects that we could easily have spent the entire... Read more »

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Lawyer Sues Venter’s Synthetic Genomics “Boys Club” over Gender Bias

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:05

Against a contentious backdrop of a gender gap in the life sciences, a lawyer who spent more than eight years managing intellectual property at San Diego’s Synthetic Genomics (SGI) has sued the star-studded company for discriminating against women.

In a state civil lawsuit filed September 7, Teresa Spehar alleges that SGI is permeated by a “boy’s club” atmosphere that routinely discriminated against Spehar and other female employees. Her suit alleges that SGI pays men more than women for “substantially similar work,” and that the company’s male executives denigrate women, discount their contributions, and exclude women from significant roles and decision-making at... Read more »

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Alnylam Data Puts a Nobel Discovery One Step Closer to Approved Drug

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 08:10

[Updated with comments at 9:49 am ET, see below] For the first time ever, a medicine using RNA interference, a method of muting a gene before it can make a harmful protein, is headed for an FDA review. If the agency grants a commercial license, it would be a major victory not just for the drug’s developer, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, but for a field of science that has been on a roller coaster ride for nearly 20 years.

Alnylam (NASDAQ: ALNY) said this morning that patisiran, a drug being developed for the rare nerve disease familial amyloid polyneuropathy, succeeded... Read more »

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NVCA Sues Trump Administration for Delaying “Startup Visa” Program

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 22:34

Add another item to the list of tech industry beefs with the new crew in the White House.

An organization representing venture capital firms filed a federal suit in Washington, DC, on Tuesday accusing Trump Administration officials of unlawfully delaying a program that would have allowed international entrepreneurs to work at companies they founded within the United States.

The suit by the National Venture Capital Association is another attempt to stop the new administration from overturning immigration policies upheld during former President Barack Obama’s tenure. Under Obama, the federal government developed a program, nicknamed the “Startup Visa” plan, that would have... Read more »

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On CAR-T’s Edge, Seattle Researchers Plot to Bypass Novartis Therapy

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 07:45

It’s not a stretch to say that Greta Oberhofer is alive thanks to the genetically modified cell therapy called CAR-T. At three and a half months old, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, an aggressive blood cancer. At 10 months old, she had a bone marrow transplant, which required chemotherapy. She had a bad reaction: Her kidney and liver shut down, and fluid built up in her heart and lungs. She was on a breathing machine. “It was pretty rough,” says her father, Andy.

When the transplant failed about three months later, “we thought it was a death... Read more »

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Akili, Emulate, Ginkgo & More: The Innovation at the Intersection Award Finalists

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 09:00

Research that happens at the intersection of different fields can lead to new innovations that tackle pressing problems in the life sciences. This year’s finalists in the Innovation at the Intersection category show the value of bringing different disciplines—engineering and biology, IT and medicine—together. Here are brief introductions to the finalists. The winners of this and the other categories of the Xconomy Awards will be announced at the Awards Gala in Boston on September 26.

Akili Interactive Labs — Prescription Video Games
Akili aims to be the first company to receive FDA approval to sell mobile video games as a... Read more »

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Dealmaker, Thought Leader & More: The X of the Year Xconomy Award Finalists

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 09:00

Given the size and diversity of the life sciences community in the Boston area, we at Xconomy knew that many candidates would be so unique that they wouldn’t fit neatly into a category. So we gave them a category of their own. These finalists represent the wide range of talent—from investors to entrepreneurs and thought-leaders—that together make the Boston biotech hub such a strong one. The winner of this and the other categories of the Xconomy Awards will be announced in Boston at the Awards Gala on September 26.

Adventurer – Deborah Dunsire
Deborah Dunsire spent nearly 20 years of her... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: Phase 3 Fails, Shkreli Jailed, Moderna Flip-Flops & More

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 07:45

It was a week of realignments. President Trump, who used to be known as “The Donald” but now goes by “Amnesty Don,” kept up the parlay-voo with his new friends Chuck and Nancy. Martin Shkreli, who was once known—and still is!—as the “pharma bro,” will have a new perspective for a while, through the bars of a jail cell. In Cambridge, MA, Moderna Therapeutics promised more clinical data as it reasserts central control over its drug R&D.

A pair of industry-critic doctors tried to shift perspective of the estimated costs of bringing a drug to market.... Read more »

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Going Big or Against the Tide: Meet the Big Idea & Contrarian Award Finalists

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 09:00

[Corrected, 1:25pm ET, see below] All innovation and companies start off as an idea. Some will gain more traction than others over time, but we at Xconomy think that big ideas—and the people and companies in Boston’s life sciences community bold enough to try to implement them—are worth celebrating. Some of those ideas even go against conventional thinking.

Here are the finalists in the Big Idea and Contrarian categories of the Xconomy Awards. Winners will be announced at our Awards Gala on September 26 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

BIG IDEA

Arrakis Therapeutics – Making RNA... Read more »

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Halozyme Inks $105M Bristol-Myers Partnership, Expands Roche Deal

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 07:55

Halozyme Therapeutics has turned a method of delivering a drug more conveniently into partnerships with several large pharmaceutical companies that want to see their infusible drugs delivered via injections instead. The San Diego biotech company’s list of alliances is now getting longer.

Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) announced Thursday that it will pay $105 million up front to license Halozyme’s (NASDAQ: HALO) technology to develop injectable immuno-oncology drugs. Depending on the progress of those compounds, Halozyme stands to gain future milestone payments, as well as royalties from sales. The deal covers up to 11 potential drugs, including a class of... Read more »

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GM, Ford, BAE Systems Up the Self-Driving Ante with New Advances

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 02:31

Things are moving quickly in the mobility sector as the race to develop autonomous vehicle technologies revs up. This week brought a spate of mobility news from GM and Cruise, Ford, BAE, and even the federal government. Read on for details.

—The Detroit News published a detailed report this week regarding Ford’s Silicon Valley lab, which the automaker established in 2015 to oversee the development of autonomous technologies and build relationships with tech industry “thought leaders.” The company envisions it as a sort of cross between a tech startup and a transportation and design think tank.

According to the News,... Read more »

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Education Is Unbundling—Three Key Trends to Watch

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 11:15

Technology in the classroom has come a long way since its advent in the 1920s, when teachers would air radio broadcasts about topics relevant to their lesson plans. Ten years later, in the 1930s, the overhead projector debuted to display material for the whole class to see all at once, followed by the launch of the Scantron grading system in the 1970s to speed up the standardized testing process. Innovative? Yes, for their time. Powerful for learners? Not really.

While technology in the classroom is not a new phenomenon, these days we are customizing technological innovations to make education adaptive and... Read more »

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Xconomy Award Finalists in the Eye of the National Drug Price Debate

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 09:00

[Corrected 12:20pm ET; see below.] The national debate over the high cost of healthcare, with prescription drugs at the center, resonates from the chambers of Congress to every American’s pocketbook. And it’s growing fiercer by the day. Last week, the first genetically modified cell therapy came to market with a price tag of $475,000. This week, vocal critics of the drug industry, leading Democrats, and even the FDA commissioner all spoke out in various ways about the causes of and potential solutions for high healthcare costs.

It’s no surprise, then, that several finalists for the first Xconomy Awards, to... Read more »

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Northrop Grumman Adds to Growing Cybersecurity Hub in San Antonio

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 19:15

San Antonio—Northrop Grumman, the military contractor that makes everything from cybersecurity systems to fighter planes, has signed a five-year lease on a new property at Port San Antonio, where officials are trying to entice more cybersecurity businesses to move.

Northrop (NYSE: NOC) is going to occupy a 7,700 square-foot building at the Port, which was established as a public entity to attract new businesses and jobs to San Antonio by redeveloping an old 1,900-acre Air Force base. Falls Church, VA-based Northrop won a contract last week from the Air Force to develop an operations system for the Air... Read more »

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The Winners of the Xconomy Lifetime Achievement Award Are…

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 14:53

The editors at Xconomy have been working hard the last few weeks putting together the program for the Xconomy Awards Gala. We are really excited to announce the two winners of the Xconomy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lita Nelsen, MIT (retired)
Lita Nelsen (pictured left) played a pivotal role in transforming Kendall Square and Boston into the hotbed of tech and biotech it is today. For more than 20 years until her recent retirement, she headed up MIT’s tech transfer office, helping to broker countless licensing deals between MIT and companies, and spinning out many startups to commercialize MIT... Read more »

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To Win Amazon’s HQ2, Incentives Are Nice, But Talent Is Required

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 14:42

Amazon lists one requirement in the stunning request for proposals it issued Thursday, which invites cities across North America to compete to host a second corporate headquarters for the tech and commerce giant.

Economic development officials are justifiably salivating at the once-in-a-generation opportunity to attract what is arguably the 21st century’s most important company, and up to 50,000 high-paying technology jobs.

Amazon, in its list of “key preferences” for selecting its second home says suitable buildings and sites are of “paramount importance.” A stable and business-friendly environment and tax structure will be “high-priority considerations.” Incentives from local and state governments will... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: RNAi Drama, Immunotherapy Data, Lasker Winners & More

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 08:48

The summer doldrums are over. Biotech news came at a breakneck pace this week both before and after Labor Day, starting with the surprise resignation of Novartis’s top executive just days after the Swiss company notched an historic FDA approval.

From there, the week featured big headlines, both good and bad, from several trials in cancer immunotherapy, gene therapy, RNA interference, and much more. New companies joined the IPO queue. Others raised cash from private investors. And we haven’t even mentioned anything going on in Washington, DC, yet. Let’s round it all up.

Inside the Beltway

—The drug industry’s Washington lobbyists... Read more »

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Venture Group’s Krenn Sees Improving VC Deals for SD Tech Startups

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 03:28

Call him an optimist if you must, but San Diego Venture Group president Mike Krenn says venture financings for San Diego’s early stage tech startups are on a tear.

“I haven’t seen it this good since 2007,” he says. As head of the non-profit organization supporting local startups, Krenn says the venture group will help to bring over 150 VCs to San Diego this year, including many from Silicon Valley. “That is an insane data point.”

Venture data, however, only partly support Krenn’s exhuberance. A breakout of regional deal flow so far this year indicates that venture activity in San Diego... Read more »

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